Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This is lame…or Holidays in the Sun in a middle school classroom in China

As I walk through my apartment complex on the way to school, someone slaps me on the shoulder. When I turn around, Jacky is there. He tells me that he recognized my bag. I am the only adult with a back pack. Lately, I have been carrying this faux military Diesel fake.

He is in a spirited mood. Yesterday, Will - from the British council - and I discussed Jacky after I finished playing basketball with the 8th graders. I told Will that I believe Jacky just wants attention. He is disruptive in Will’s class as well. He tells both of us our classes are ‘boring.’ As much of a pain in the ass as Jacky is, I do really like him, he has this undeniable sweetness underneath.

Jacky and I walk to school. He is talking a mile a minute the whole time. He asks where I live. I point in the direction in which I live. He tells me I lied to him. He seems to think that I told him I lived far away. I tell him no I live close. I ask him if he lives in the complex. He says no. He points in the direction where he lives. He tells me this is a shortcut. He seems proud that he knows the word shortcut or that he knows what a shortcut is.

William is going into the gates as we are walking up to the gates. We are to his right. He does not see us. At this point, he does not really depend on his crutches. He just limps. As I point him out to Jacky, William drops the crutches on which he no longer depends. Jacky and I laugh. As Jacky catches up with him, I duck into the guard house to retrieve my milk. I mark my name off.

At the 1st floor stairwell, I catch up with Jacky and William. Jacky tells William that we walked to school together. William asks if my apartment is big. I tell him it is an okay size. It is a one bedroom. Jacky tells me he thought I lived with others, with two others. I tell him I live alone. He tells me that I lied to him. He then adds that I am too ugly to have a wife. If I was not so ugly I would not live alone. To me,William says “No, you are very handsome.” I thank William.

“This is lame.”
“Did you say this is lame?”
“I said ‘This is sooooo lame.’” With that statement and the so held out, Sumran flashes the sign for loser.
“Did you just call me a loser?” I ask.
Kevin is sitting across from Sumran, moaning and groaning, “Teacher, What this mean?” “Teacher, I no understand.” “Teacher…”
“No,” she replies. “I called Kevin a loser.”
“Oh,” I say. “That’s okay then.”

Today, the sixth graders are answering Mothman questions and looking up vocabulary words from the reading. Kevin asks if he can use his electronic dictionary to look up the words. Yes, I tell him. He runs off to the classroom to get it. Sumran tells me it is not fair. I tell her he has trouble in English and that I am going to give him every opportunity I can to make it easier. She tells me that Chinese is not made easier for her in Chinese class.

For once, all of them are focused on what they are doing. This may be because I took away books and magazines that they (Oscar and Sooham) were reading when class started. Oscar actually works on the questions. All of the students work on the questions.

The art teacher who sits next to me asks me if I can give her my design plan for the semester. For a moment, I think this over. I then tell her I have had to re-design my design class. What I had planned at the beginning of the term is not working. At the moment, I am just trying to figure out what works. At the moment, I am trying to just keep my head above water. This I do not tell her.

She asks me about the design on my desk, the re-make remodel that Sooham made. I tell her approximately 5 students did the assignment and now I am not sure what to do. She gives me a perplexed look. She starts to talk about it further but then Sooham sticks his head in the door. He asks if he can come in. I tell him yes. Sooham is very polite.

“Teacher,” he says, “Do you have another copy of Mothman?”
“Do I have another copy of Mothman?”
“Yes, I lost mine,” he says. “Just the first page, Teacher.”
Although, I attacked the pile of papers on my desk a week ago, once again, my desk is nothing but papers and keyboard. The other art teacher always tells me that I can put my papers in the plastic sleeves. I tell her I need to but I never do. I look through the papers on my desk. I tell Sooham to go ahead and go to class. I will print another copy for him. I will bring it to class with me later.

Charles, who is very sweet when he is not around Trevor and Sam, comes into the teachers’ office and offers me an Oreo from a pack that he is eating. I tell him Oreos are my favorite as I take one.

At this point, the only classes I do not dread are my English classes. My 7th grade design class is next. I never know if they are going to be horrible or be manageable. There never seems to be an in between.

Today, we are designing the packaging for a CD. When I walk into the room, Eric tells me to not erase the board because it is William’s birthday (British Council Will) and they have decorated the board for him.
If they do their eye exercises, I will not erase the birthday greeting on the board. That is the deal that I make with them. I tell Eric he must explain the directions to the others. He does not agree. Most of the students do the eye exercises except for Trevor and Charles who talk during the exercises. Each time I hear someone talk I erase a letter on the board. This is not something I want to do. Nevertheless, I want them to know I mean business. They should have no problems fixing what I have erased in less than a minute.

Yesterday, we went outside because I decided after their lunch time sugar fueled Halloween party I did not want to try to coop up a class of 17 kids hopped up on sugar. I told them to draw designs outside. This may seem like I was taking the easy way out. Yes, I am taking the easy way out to some extent but this is because of the results of the impromptu meeting I had with my boss on Monday.

Finally, I told her that most of the students absolutely do not understand me. This makes it very difficult to teach them anything. She told me I needed to simplify what I was doing. If they could learn a few things that would be great but my main objective is to give them a positive learning experience with foreign teachers.

So Monday, this positive learning experience transferred to my 8th graders who I was to give a geography, history, culture lecture. Instead, I decided to show culture, the American basketball culture. Of course, it took me several minutes to quiet them down enough in class to ask them if they wanted to go play basketball.

Since we went outside to draw yesterday, the 7th graders want to go outside again today. I tell them no. We are staying inside. However, when I tell them that we are going to design CD packaging, that gets the class very excited. I brought some examples to show them. I brought Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, Joy Division Closer, the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bullocks.

I pass them around, smack Will (7th grade Will) on the head when he throws the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sleeve across the table to Oscar.
“Don’t throw my stuff around you little idiot!” I say this after I smacked him in the head but before I nail him in the arm with a nice punch. He is one of the smaller difficult children. He winces when I punch him. Nevertheless, after being punched in the arm, he is tolerable the rest of the class.

I then gave the class a printout I made of sample CD artwork. After I explained what we were doing, I hand them paper that has a blank disc printed on it. I tell them to do this part of the design first.

Jacky wants to watch one of the CDs. I tell him there is nothing to watch. He tells me he wants to see. He tells me they are VCDs. I tell him on they are just CDs. They have nothing but music. There are no videos or anything like that. Now, he just wants to listen to one. Can we listen to one as we work on our design, he asks. I ask him which one he would like to hear. He wants to hear the Sex Pistols. I tell him okay.

He loads it into the computer. At first there are no vocals. He asks if there is singing. He wants to hear something with singing. Can we listen to something else? There is no singing. Of course, I cannot get in a word as usual. Finally, he stops for breath. I tell him there should be singing. He messes with the virtual mixer. Johnny Rotten’s voice comes screeching out. Yes, this is beautiful - “Holidays in the Sun” in a middle school classroom in China. Sensurround sound in a two inch wall well I was waiting for the communist call…

Laura, the pain in the ass, yells “Finished!”
In magic marker, she had written CD multiple times all over the paper with the blank disc.
“No your not,” I say as I wad up the paper that she just gave me. I hand her another blank sheet. This wadding of the paper is a direct influence of the Sex Pistols now meandering through my brain. The other students laugh. Some of the students, the usual good students, take the assignment serious. Others do not. Will sits and does not do anything. I tell him to get on it.
“Thinking!” he exclaims.

Jacky is sitting at the corner of the teachers’ desk. He tells me he wants to call the CD Sexy Tyson. I tell him that is fine with me. He tells me a teacher may see it and not approve. Good thinking on his part I tell myself. He then wants to call it Super Tyson. I suggest Super Jacky. He does not like that. Finally, he starts working on it. He will not let me see it. He has attached himself to the Sex Pistols. Whether he likes them or not, I do not know but he is intrigued by the artwork. For once, he is quite focused.

Finally, he shows me the name of his CD – No Feeling. I tell him if he would like to add an ‘S’. He gives the Sex Pistols a look and says, “Oh yeah, I didn’t see that.”

When I walk around, students who usually are troublesome are actually enjoying this project. Laura is working hard on hers. Finally, finally, this is starting to feel right.

Will has his plastic pirate sword from Halloween. I run into it and impale myself. I fall on the ground and make a gargling sound with my throat - as if I am gurgling blood and gasping for breath. Laura and Alice are standing over me. Alice asks if I am okay.
“Fine,” I say as I get up.
Body, I’m not an animal, Mummy, I’m not an abortion.


Blogger Loren Coleman said...

Cool to hear that Chinese children are reading either The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel (probably) or my Mothman and Other Curious Encounters!

Since the 2002 movie, the interest has been international.

Best wishes
Loren Coleman

3:49 AM  

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